by Wayne Christensen
Editor and Publisher of Baseball Parent
"Lessons from One College Search" is the story of one parent's
thoughts on the college baseball recruitment process.
Many factors will influence whether your son plays baseball in college.
Nearly all of them are out of your control, but, with lots of hard work
and spending what may seem like a year's tuition at an affordable
in-state school, you can increase your son's chances of playing
college baseball considerably.
On August 12, my son was at an invitational pro try-out camp. His
senior year of high school was to start the next day. Although I
did not realize it at the time, that Thursday marked the end of
our family's college search that had begun in August 1997. At that
time we didn't know whether he could play college baseball at all,
let alone at what level, or whether he'd be given a chance to play.
After spending 12 months of looking at colleges, attending baseball
camps, playing a fall and spring high school and summer travel-team
season, going to a couple of showcases, and attending several pro
try-out camps, we thought he could play college ball. But where?
By October 12, all our questions were answered. A number of schools
showed serious interest. And he had received several offers, but one
from a major Division 1 university, to which he verbally committed,
and, on November 11, signed a National Letter of Intent to play there.
If he hadn't signed early, we would have been looking at another six
months of visits, calls, letters, and questions about his baseball
After just having gone through this recruiting process, some things
seemed clearer than they did before it all began.
See Your Son. College coaches have limited budgets. They also have
to coach their own teams during the same time the high school season
is underway. So, far less college recruiting seems to be done in the
spring than in the summer.
Open pro-tryout camps are good places to be seen by pro scouts, who,
in turn, are frequently asked by college coaches about the good
players they have seen play. Some summer baseball tournaments for
hand picked "select" teams - often made up of players from several
high schools are good places to be seen if college coaches and pro
scouts are invited.
Other summer tournaments are by invitation only and run by universities. These can be very good places to be seen, since the tournament director can assure college coaches and pro scouts that the quality of players will be higher than average. Sometimes the best 6 or 8 teams from adjoining states will be invited to one university for a week-end of round robin play.
State high school baseball coaches associations' all-star games, even
if they may conflict with summer team tournaments, are very good
Some teams are selected by balloting of high school coaches and
others are picked from try-outs.
Showcases -- Particularly TEAM ONE and All American -- are excellent
places to gain exposure. Some 50 or more coaches and scouts can attend
the TEAM ONE Regional Showcases in Lexington, Ky., Clemson, SC, Tucson,
AZ, and the national showcase in Florida. All American Baseball
Showcases organizes some 15 events across the U.S. annually,
culminating in the "Florida Finale" in November. The Area Code Games
in Wilmington, N.C., and Long Beach, Calif., are organized by pro
teams and are also very prestigious events to attend.
College "select" camps or "showcase" camps, only for high school
players may be the best way to be seen. Over the course of several
days, coaches not only watch your son's performance, they can get to
know you and what kind of student your son is -- if he hustles on and
off the field at the end of the day after many hours in the hot sun;
what his work ethic is like; how he gets along with other players;
does he dive after ground balls and get his uniform dirty at every
game or practice; is he coachable; and how he compares to the other
players at the camp and the previous camps at that particular
Among the schools that conduct these select camps are Arizona State,
Auburn, California State, Duke, Florida State, Houston, Illinois,
Indiana State, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Mansfield, Minnesota,
North Carolina, Old Dominion, Stanford, Tennessee, Virginia and VMI.
What's more, there are camps for players of all ages at dozens of
other universities and colleges that also showcase high school players
and from which players are signed to scholarships from just those
Like Your Son. During the recruiting process, a thrilling moment may
occur when some college coach from even the smallest school at a summer
camp says he is "definitely interested" or has "strong interest" in
your son and goes on to say they'll have "to get him in for a visit."
Or a coach may call him at home wanting him to come to a hitting camp
next Christmas. Those are encouraging signs, but, like the baseball
questionnaires, you will receive in response to letters he writes to
college coaches, they may not mean much. Some colleges may even have
him invited to pro tryout camps to compare him to other players
they're recruiting at his position.
Need Your Son. Of the several pieces of the recruiting puzzle that
must fall into place for your son to play in college, one is among
the hardest for parents to figure out. College coaches who you write
letters to or whose summer camps you chose to attend may not readily
tell you what positions they're recruiting for a couple of reasons.
One, the coach wants to make his decisions about players and positions
after his fall workouts. Players can win or lose their starting roles
during this time. Two, your son may be recruited to play a new
position or to simply be a "utility" player.
Want Your Son. If a coach really wants him, he'll be invited for an
official - paid - visit. You may not talk about scholarship money
prior to the trip or even on the trip. If you do talk about money,
the amount of the scholarship may or may not indicate how much they
want your son. For example, the university may be loaded with
upperclassmen and have very little scholarship money available
for your son's first year. What's more, a school may want him badly
as a position player but it's strapped for money and simply needs
to spend all its money on pitchers.
References. Some of the best may be by pro scouts that have seen your
son play and like what they see. Talk to them at high school games.
Ask them if your son can play in college and, if so, if they'll be a
reference for him.
Other good references include coaches at local colleges that have
seen your son play and his summer coach. If he takes lessons from
a former college or professional player at a local training school,
use the instructor or head of the school. His principal, or a youth
group leader at a church make good character references, which some
colleges will want to check out.
Get Your Son. Let's say your son has a full ride to a smaller school,
a 50 percent offer from a large school, in a fine conference, and a
10 percent offer from a major school in one of the best conferences
in the U.S.
Which offer will he take, if any?
The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors and the
importance that your family puts on each of them. Among those factors
are: your financial situation; if the school would be the right place
for him without baseball; distance of the school from your home,
which will determine how much you'll get to see him play; what size
school he wants to attend; playing time his first year; and his and
your feelings about the coaching staff, which may be his surrogate
parents for the next four years.
After all is said and done your son may not like the college options
before him and won't select any of them. He may well want to spend
more time looking. On the other hand, he may chose one, commit early,
and receive calls from several others -- perhaps even prestigious
schools -- after he has committed. If that were to happen, I'd be
inclined to remember the advice of a friend who said to me "Make
your decision and don't look back."
Baseball Parent Magazine